Mythical bear creates Facebook monster

BY AMY BRADNEY-GEORGE
Last updated 14:25 27/04/2010
Nick Getley
Fairfax
SURPRISE SUCCESS: Nick Getley created the Drop Bears fan group on Facebook

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A man and his imaginary animal have shown what a quirky idea, a Facebook page and like-minded people can do.

In the world of Facebook, anything goes. From competitive titles such as "Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback" to the neurotically skewed "Inbox (1) makes me nervous", the variety of pages available on this social-networking giant is both overwhelming and hilarious.

It's not hard to spend hours browsing through Facebook, finding out friends "hate it when inanimate objects look like they have scary faces", "pretend to text in awkward situations" and thought they were the only ones to experience "The Mini Spaz Attack When Your (sic) In Bed, Half Asleep And Imagine Your (sic) Falling".

With millions of Facebook members becoming fans of these pages, it's one of the quickest ways for people to share common beliefs, interests and experiences online. It can also be an unlikely place for business ideas.

Facebook says pages give "public figures, businesses, organisations and other entities" an opportunity to create a public presence on the site.

While they can be used as a way to connect with fans, the user-generated pages seem to be more about connecting people through experiences. In the process, many page creators are learning about business sense within social networking sites like Facebook.

Nick Getley, who created a page for the mythological Australian drop bear (see below), says he originally wanted a humorous way for Australians to relate to each other online.

"As far as I [can] see, I have created a monster, there were only pages for official products at the time and now there are fan pages of everything," he says.

With 72,605 people liking the page, at last count, Getley says he gets hundreds of posts every week.

"They range from nostalgic stories of people who had their fathers scare them with drop bear stories, people who have played a prank on tourists, to foreigners actually seeing the page as evidence itself and then writing their concern as to why people would be a fan of vicious wildlife," he says. "The most fun we have is referencing the 'Great Drop Bear Massacre of 1999' - a fictitious event, obviously, but of Lord of the Rings proportions."

While Drop Bears was Getley's first page creation, he is also involved in managing another 20 or more pages. Getley has even liaised with some businesses about pages he wanted to create, such as the page for Streets Ice Cream's Bubble O'Bill.

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"I always liked Bubble O'Bill [ice creams], so when I created a page for them and the fans started growing I asked for permission to get the page verified," he says.

Before Facebook's recent introduction of "community pages" for users who "share similar interests or experiences", Getley says page owners could be asked to verify their legitimacy. To sustain the Drop Bears page he even created a website selling Drop Bear T-shirts.

"I never wanted to make money from the page but we had something like three weeks to authenticate it as a sort of business, so I designed drop bear T-shirts and made a website to keep the page going," he says.

"I like being involved in pages because it's a lot of fun being able to talk to so many fans. It's been a real eye-opener career-wise, too."

USER-GENERATED

He says that while he is a fan of bands and businesses on Facebook, he thinks the user-generated pages are a more unique part of his social-networking experience.

"[These] fan pages have the same feeling you got when you were a kid in high school and you were a fan of something that felt obscure, or overlooked," he says. "At least once a week on my fan pages I see posts that say, 'Wow, I had no idea you could be a fan of this!"'

On the other side of the screen are the Facebook members clicking away in agreement. Kelly Hodder, a member who admits to being a "serial page joiner", says it is a fun way to explore Facebook.

"My first impression is that [these] pages are funny - well some of them. Some of the pages I've joined are because I agree with the subject of the pages and want to show my support," she says.

Hodder, who is a fan of pages like "Lindt", "Bubblewrap", "Yelling At Inanimate Objects" and "I Wish Music Played During Epic Moments of My Life and Not Just in Movies", says she never realised how many pages she was actually joining.

"I've been on Facebook for a couple of years now and I guess they add up," she says.

"The bulk of the pages that I join are ones that my friends have joined and they pop up in my news feed ... it's definitely a serial thing [for me] to join."

While Getley says there can be a sense of community around these types of pages, Hodder thinks they are more a surface-level aspect of Facebook.

"I mainly go on there to 'connect' with my friends who I don't see much any more ... I guess it communicates some of my thoughts, beliefs, interests to my friends without me having to actually tell them," she says.

But when visiting pages such as "When I Was Younger I Put My Face Close To The Fan To Hear My Robot Voice" or "When I was your age, everyone wanted a Nokia 3310. Not an iPhone", the level of interaction on the sites shows how much of a community is being built by this technology.

Regardless of whether people have "become fans", or "liked" a page after the recent changes, they add a quirkiness to Facebook that is endearing.

After all, there's nothing quite like signing on and seeing one of your friends enjoys "Looking through a textbook and pointing at pictures and going, 'that's you"'.

 

LEGENDS OF THE FALL

Drop bears are vicious, deadly animals created in the spirit of true Australian humour to scare unsuspecting people. While the stories and descriptions vary from person to person, drop bears are generally said to resemble koalas, sit in gum trees and drop on unsuspecting victims. Tourists are the most common targets for drop bear stories and it's common for a group of Australians to join in with the joke once someone starts it.

Drop bears have also been popularised by writer Terry Pratchett in his novel The Last Continent and in an ad campaign for Bundaberg Rum.

ANOTHER WAY TO ENGAGE

Facebook pages are designed as a way for public figures, organisations and businesses to connect with Facebook users.

To create a page, you can go to facebook.com/pages, click on "Create Page" and select what type of page you want to set up. While personal information is not included on a page, Facebook does require that it is linked to an individual person's Facebook account.

After creating the page, the process is similar to setting up a user profile, with sections for information about the focus of the page, photos and other customisable tabs available.

Once active, the page can be suggested to Facebook users and the more people clicking "like" to a page, the more opportunity there is for advertising.

Pages are connected to users' news feeds and the "suggestions" section of the home page, which means updates from the page and responses from users connected to it are spread through a range of networks on Facebook.

The most successful pages are ones that actively connect with fans. Optus has a section of its page dedicated to news from celebrity Kim Kardashian, who is on tour in Australia.

As well as being able to upload photos and videos of the celebrity, the section is linked to her Twitter feed, which is an effective use of new-media cross-promotion.

Another strategy, used on pages such as Pandora Jewellery, is to regularly post status updates asking people to share stories on the page. Companies can then hear directly from the people and those voices are broadcast across each of the user's networks in connection with that company.

Facebook also offers free reporting by measuring people's engagement with the page, the impact it is having and basic data on the types of people accessing it.

When used effectively, Facebook pages may be an asset to online marketing for businesses, organisations and public figures.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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